Cubs

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

Koji Uehara would add another dimension to Cubs bullpen

The Cubs are reportedly on the verge of adding another pitcher who’s notched the final out of a World Series as Theo Epstein’s front office builds out the bullpen for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs are nearing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Koji Uehara, according to Nikkan Sports in Japan, which would open up even more possibilities for the defending champs in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis.

The Cubs made their biggest splash during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland by trading young outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis, who finished off Game 5 in the 2015 World Series.

Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the beginning of three straight seasons where he put up 20-plus saves. The Cubs have not confirmed an agreement is in place.

The Cubs needed another lefty presence with Mike Montgomery – the pitcher on the mound when the 108-year drought ended in November – moving to the rotation and Travis Wood likely leaving as a free agent.

Uehara throws right-handed, but he shuts down left-handed hitters (.183 batting average, .555 OPS across 800 at-bats) and has appeared in seven postseason series after a distinguished career in Japan.

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Uehara will turn 42 the day after Opening Day. But an array of relievers should help preserve Uehara, strengthen Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s generously listed at 170 pounds) and maybe prevent the late-season injuries that marginalized Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the playoffs.

“We’re going to try to build up a ton of depth,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try to build up a really talented, deep bullpen with a lot of different options that you can use in close games.

“Instead of three late-game options, it would be ideal if you had five or six. And you could always like who you’re turning to in the ‘pen and not feel the need to use a Rondon four out of five times.

“(We could) use them every other day and occasional back-to-backs. And that would help keep them fresh down the stretch – and help keep them strong in October.”

Cubs grant Astros permission to interview Will Venable for managerial opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs grant Astros permission to interview Will Venable for managerial opening

In the wake of their infamous sign-stealing scandal, the Astros could look to the North Side to fill their suddenly vacant managerial seat.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs have granted the Astros permission to interview Will Venable for manager.

MLB conducted a thorough investigation into a report from The Athletic stating the Astros electronically stole signs during their 2017 championship season. The findings resulted in general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch receiving year-long suspensions Monday before the Astros subsequently fired both from their respective posts.

RELATED: David Ross and Anthony Rizzo react to Astros cheating scandal, subsequent fallout

Venable joined the Cubs in September 2017 as a special assistant in the front office. He joined the on-field staff as first base coach in 2018, a position he held through last season. The 37-year-old also spent time as third base coach when Brian Butterfield dealt with health issues in 2019.

The Cubs named Venable third base coach this offseason following Butterfield’s departure to Joe Maddon’s Angels. Prior to that, Venable interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial opening — which went to David Ross — as well as the Giants’ opening, which went to former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

The Astros have already reportedly interviewed Buck Showalter for manager and are set to meet with John Gibbons, too.

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David Ross and Anthony Rizzo react to Astros cheating scandal, subsequent fallout

David Ross and Anthony Rizzo react to Astros cheating scandal, subsequent fallout

The Astros sign-stealing scandal has rocked the baseball community near and far. Monday, MLB handed Houston severe penalties for illegally stealing signs during the 2017 season. Those penalties include one-year suspensions for Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch — both of whom were subsequently fired from their positions.

The connection extends out of Houston; the Red Sox (Alex Cora) and Mets (Carlos Beltran) also parted ways with their managers this week in wake of MLB’s thorough investigation. Cora was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and the mastermind of the scheme, according to The Athletic. Beltran played a key role in devising the scheme.

Cora, who won the World Series with Boston as a rookie manager in 2018, has additional penalties coming. Beltran, hired by the Mets in November, lost his job before making his managerial debut.

Like the Mets, the Cubs hired a first-year manager this offseason in former catcher David Ross. At a Cubs charity event on Thursday, Ross discussed the scandal and its fallout.

On scandal and subsequent punishment

"It is disappointing,” Ross said. “You gotta applaud Major League Baseball for doing their due diligence and upholding the integrity of the game — super important for our fans, for our players, for our coaches. I'm glad they did their homework and made some of the decisions they made."

On if he’s surprised any players weren’t punished

"I think lines get blurred when you talk about who's at fault and it can go all the way down,” he said. “Those things are difficult decisions and I don't have enough information — I wasn't a part of the emails and all the interviews that the MLB had to do, so it'd be tough to comment on exactly who’s at fault and what area and pointing that blame.

“Because in a team sport, there's gotta be somebody at the top that takes the blame. I think Major League Baseball has done a good job of defining that."

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also discussed the scandal Thursday. While he admitted he’s not entirely versed on the topic, he voiced his support for commissioner Rob Manfred.

“Obviously, Major League Baseball did a huge, monster investigation and they decided what they thought was best. I’m sure a lot of decisions and time went into that, so we support them with the consequences they’ve made,” Rizzo said. “It’s something that hopefully gets nixed fast. There’s in-game stuff that’s part of the game, but some of the other stuff seems to take it too far. The commissioner, I think, did a good job handling it."

On if teams cheat against the Cubs

“100 percent. I don’t know if to that extent. I think in-game stuff — I think everyone will say this as well — getting the edge in the game is totally different on the field,” he said. “Some of the video stuff I’ve heard — I don’t know if it’s true, obviously it is with the penalties — that I think takes it a little too far.

“MLB’s done a good job the last few years to have guys in the clubhouse and all-around monitoring it. To be doing it still is not easy, and it’s blatantly going out of the way.

Rizzo added opponents sometimes make sounds as decoys to make teams believe their signs are being stolen. 

Regarding whether the Cubs follow the rules

“I think it’s 100 percent safe to say that. Yeah, no doubt,” Rizzo said. “That’s for sure on the record.”

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